In a December blog post, we alerted you that a petition was circulating among ALA members to put a measure on the ALA 2018 ballot to overturn the decision by ALA Council to change the language of the job announcement for the next ALA Executive Director from “MLIS preferred” (or CAEP/school librarian equivalent) back to MLIS required. The petition received the requisite number of signatures, which means ALA members will be asked to vote on this issue during the elections, which run from March 12 – April 4.
YALSA’s Board of Directors strongly encourages our members to vote no on this ballot measure. The YALSA Board unanimously supports the recommendations of the ALA Executive Board, the ALA Search Committee, ten of the eleven ALA divisions, and the ALA Council, that the MLIS is preferred but not required for Executive Director candidates.
The rationale for our decision includes the following:
- 38.3% of ALA members do not have an MLIS.
- ALA is not a library. It is an association that represents and advocates for libraries. Industry best practice indicates that the executive director position of a nonprofit organization, especially one as large and complex as ALA, requires expertise in nonprofit and association leadership.
- If ALA limits the pool of candidates by requiring all applicants to have an MLIS, it will exclude qualified people of diverse backgrounds who, for whatever reason, chose not to dedicate their education to librarianship. According to ALA’s Diversity Counts report, 88% of credentialed librarians are white and 83% are female. Since diversity is a key action area for ALA, the executive director search should be conducted in a manner that allows for the greatest potential of attracting qualified applicants from underrepresented communities.
- Talented, mission-driven nonprofit leaders want to be part of ALA because they value libraries and the good work ALA does. Requiring a MLIS limits the pool of qualified candidates by excluding this group of experts. As ALA President Jim Neal explained, “The search firm and the search committee were contacted by such individuals but they were not able to be considered. Individuals with other educational backgrounds were recommended to the search committee, but they could not be recruited as candidates.”
As you know, the search for a new ALA Executive Director was declared a failed search, and the ALA Executive Board has appointed long-time ALA Senior Associate Executive Director Mary Ghikas to serve as ALA Executive Director until 2020.
The search for the new executive director will be reopened this summer. During this current political climate, when institutions like libraries are under attack, ALA needs a strong leader and we cannot afford to put up unnecessary barriers to highly qualified and diverse individuals to applying for this job. We hope you will join us and vote no on this ballot measure. A “no” vote means that you want to keep the current language approved by ALA Council last year, which states and MLIS is preferred, but not required.
Sandra Hughes-Hassell, 2017 – 2018 YALSA President
Todd Krueger, YALSA Division Councilor